Higher Standards: Opportunities for Enhancing Flood Resilience in the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) prepared this report to help the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership (ESCAP) identify strategies for adapting to increasing sea-level rise and flood risk in the Eastern Shore region of Maryland. This publication is a part of a series of reports assessing the sea-level rise vulnerability of communities in Maryland's Eastern Shore, as well as potential adaptation responses. ESCAP worked with the Eastern Shore Regional GIS cooperative to assess sea-level rise vulnerabilities in the six counties and two municipalities that participate in ESCAP. GCC and the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center helped to identify potential legal and policy options for enhancing flood resilience in Eastern Shore communities. This report summarizes how more rural jurisdictions, like those on the Eastern Shore, can enhance flood resilience by updating local land-use ordinances and floodplain regulations, and by pursuing other non-regulatory options, including acquiring flood-prone properties, preserving open space in the floodplain, and coordinating regionally on public outreach and education programs.

Case studies highlight how other jurisdictions have used similar approaches to enhance flood resilience and example regulatory language is provided to help jurisdictions implement different approaches. The report also discusses the legal and policy considerations that jurisdictions will need to navigate as they consider what options to pursue, including a summary of the potential Community Rating System (described in more detail below) points that a jurisdiction might earn for implementing different activities. This report was published by the Eastern Land Conservancy, that facilitates ESCAP, as part of their Mainstreaming Sea-Level Rise Preparedness in Local Planning and Policy on Maryland's Eastern Shore report. 

The report discusses the following sea-level rise adaptation and flood resilience strategies:

  • Expanding the regulatory floodplain (e.g., using the 500-year floodplain to regulate development in floodplains rather than the 100-year).
  • Increasing flood resilience design standards (e.g., restricting critical facilities in high-risk areas, requiring additional elevation (or freeboard) for structures in the floodplain, requiring elevation of critical mechanical and electrical equipment, prohibiting fill or requiring compensatory storage, restricting the height and size of allowable structures in floodplains).
  • Tracking cumulative substantial improvements to structures so that as structures are damaged and rebuilt they are rebuilt with enhanced resilience to flooding.
  • Restricting or condition new subdivisions (e.g., requiring that new subdivisions developments be clustered outside of the floodplain and that floodplain areas be preserved as open space).
  • Establishing a Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program to encourage greater density and growth in high ground areas and discourage additional development in higher risk areas
  • Targeting funding to buyout structures in high risk or severe repetitive loss areas
  • Acquiring conservation easements to preserve floodplains.
  • Developing post-disaster redevelopment plans to create a vision for rebuilding in the event of a major disaster
  • Considering sea-level rise in capital improvement plans and budgeting
  • Coordinating regionally on Community Rating System Activitiessuch as by collaborating on public outreach and education or by supporting regional GIS.

Short case studies in this report discuss how other jurisdictions are working to enhance flood resilience, including:

  • Baltimore, Maryland's efforts to enhance flood resilience by adopting a more robust floodplain ordinance.
  • Cedar Falls, Iowa's work to address increasing flood risks by coupling the adoption of higher regulatory standards with a buyout program.
  • Durham, New Hampshire's adoption of an "Advisory Climate Change Risk Area" to encourage new developers in areas with future risk of flooding from sea-level rise to apply resilient design best practices.
  • New York City's work to address legal barriers after Hurricane Sandy to allow property owners to rebuild with resilience.
  • Augusta, Georgia's adoption of a "conservation subdivision" ordinance to require clustering of new development out of floodplains.
  • Suffolk County, New York's administration of a TDR program to preserve the ecologically sensitive Pine Barrens ecosystem.
  • Charlotte-Mecklengburg, North Carolina's use of stormwater utility fees to fund buyouts and restoration in flood-prone areas.
  • New York State's efforts to promote comprehensive buyouts and restoration after Hurricane Sandy.
  • North Carolina's buyout program after Hurricane Floyd to address losses to livestock and farming uses.
  • Gloucester County, Virginia's work to link open space preservation and hazard mitigation. 
  • Sarasota County, Florida's work to enhance resilience through a post-disaster redevelopment plan.
  • Cape Cod Cooperation Extension's work to provide technical assistance to counties in Cape Cod, Massachusetts to facilitate participation in the CRS program.
  • The Atlantic-Cape May Coastal Coalition's work to help Sandy-affected jurisdictions in Southern New Jersey adopt a regional Program for Public Information to support regional coordination on public education and outreach efforts related to flood resilience (and to earn points under the CRS program).

The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive sub-program of the National Flood Insurance Program that offers discounts on flood insurance rates in communities that undertake different activities to reduce their flood risks. The program offers points to communities that adopt higher regulatory standards or that implement other approaches to reducing flood risk. The number of points earned translate into insurance premium discounts as a community moves up different Class rankings (Class 1 communities receiving 45% discounts and Class 9 communities receiving 5% discounts). Many communities are looking to leverage the CRS program to build support for flood resilience initiatives and to earn discounts on flood insurance rates for policyholders in their jurisdictions. 

The Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership (ESCAP) was established in 2016 to support regional coordination on adaptation and climate resilience work among counties and municipalities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, one of the regions in the U.S. that is most vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise. Jurisdictions participating in ESCAP include Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Queen Anne's, and Talbot counties and the municipalities of Oxford and Cambridge. ESCAP is facilitated by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC).

This work was supported by a grant to ESLC from the Climate Resilience Fund.


Publication Date: January 2019

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